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Kicking witchcraft out of the game

By Daniel Mbega
Dar es Salaam

THE war on juju in football has a long way to go in Africa because the phenomenon of witchcraft has resurfaced as a hot topic of debate in Ghana after the Black Stars were eliminated from the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Ghana coach Goran Stevanovic revealed last month that there was a deep division within the squad, saying some players used witchcraft against their own team-mates.
In his leaked report delivered to the Ghana Football Association’s (GFA) executive committee, the Serbian claims that after losing to Zambia in a semi-final game, there arose many accusations amongst the players.
“We all need to help in changing some players’ mentality about using ‘black power’ to destroy themselves, and also make sure we instill discipline and respect for each other,” the coach said. “Some players played to achieve personal fame, prominence and excellence. I have learnt great lessons from African football and also about Ghanaian players’ behaviour on and off the field.”
Well, this is just one of the scenarios that happen after football games associated with juju practices. Sometimes when a team using witchcraft happen to win a game, you can’t hear those allegations, but once the team fails, you could hear many things, just like the Ghana story.
Beliefs in witchcraft are widespread in Tanzanian football and top teams hire witchdoctors for key matches. Witchdoctors also travel with teams for international matches and the use of paid witchdoctors in Tanzanian football has become a national issue.
Club officials have also come forward with allegations of widespread corruption; some claiming that up to $5,000 for each important game has been pocketed by officials who claim they are paying for magic rituals.
Most club officials engage in witchcraft because they fear they could be ousted by members who encourage and benefit from witchcraft.
Kassim Dewji, former Simba’s secretary general, was forced to step down when he disagreed with witchcraft beliefs in the club, though he had helped the team win eight trophies on his helm and made history by knocking out the African Champions, Zamalek, to feature for the group phase of the CAF Champions League in 2003.
“If you look at my record, I have won eight trophies,” Dewji was quoted as saying. “I have won because I believe in coaches. I used to spend a lot of money to buy good players for the team and that’s why we did well. But there was a clique of people opposed to me all the way because I didn’t believe in that witchcraft of theirs and they forced me out.”
There have even been allegations that the national team used money earmarked for players to pay a witchdoctor. In September 2006, Mwina Kaduguda, the former FAT secretary-general, claimed that the use of witchcraft was not restricted to club matches. “The Federation paid for a witchdoctor to travel to Nairobi for the national team’s World Cup preliminary qualifier against Kenya. They used the player’s match allowances to pay the witchdoctor and the players got nothing.”
But this outlay proved fruitless as Taifa Stars lost their qualifier 3-0 to Kenya, which Kaduguda said the dismal performance was a result of disgruntled players not doing their best because of not receiving their allowances.
In 2007 rumours had it that, Tanzania’s national football team (Taifa Stars) travelled with four magicians to Dakar on their away 2008 Nations Cup qualifier against Senegal. But the magicians overslept, and when they woke up, the game was over and Taifa Stars had succumbed 4-0.
Amir Mhando, a senior sports reporter in Dar es Salaam, says the witchcraft practices done in football to influence the outcome of football games are just hoaxes aimed at destroying the good of the game.
Mhando, who is also the Secretary-General of the Tanzania Sports Writers Association (TASWA), admits that those practices are done not only in Tanzania, but elsewhere in the African continent – sometimes in secrecy or broad daylight.
“I was forced to rub some pig oil on ankles while playing for a street club some 15 years and the officials even poured the pig oil on our goal so that our enemies could not score. Bu, nothing helped when we met a strong side,” he recalls, but says there is no magic in football.
Ibrahim Bakari, a sports editor with Mwananchi Communications Limited in Dar es Salaam, says using magic in football does not but hampers development of the game.
“It has been reported many times that Cameroon and Nigeria practice juju in football. But in this year’s AFCON Orange Cup in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon none of them featured. Even Senegal, where juju is being sold on the streets, failed to go through the knock-out phase,” he says.
However, a spate of witchcraft scandals performed in a broad daylight by Simba and Yanga players in 2003 made Tanzania’s football authorities to try and clamp down on the use of juju and superstitious things in the game.
The Football Association of Tanzania (FAT) – the forerunner of Tanzania Football Federation – under the secretary-general of Mwina Kaduguda, introduced the campaign to discourage witchcraft in 2003, starting with Simba and Yanga, who were fined USD 500 each after their players performed juju rituals in a league game.
Once again, the duo did various witchcraft rituals before their derby on October 29, 2006 and the Tanzania Football Federation (TFF) imposed a USD 500 fine to each club.
“We are also going to start a campaign to educate all teams in the league that these practices have no place in Tanzanian football,” Kaduguda was quoted as saying.
Since then, at least, witchcraft practices is not performed in daylight, though impeccable sources within most Premier League Clubs in Tanzania say, it is now done in secrecy.
“TFF won’t hesitate to anyone and any team which show unsporting behaviour and indulge in witchcraft,” says a federation spokesperson, Boniface Wambura. “The regulations (League Regulations) are there and anyone caught performing rituals in football will be punished accordingly.”
Douglas Muhani, former national team player, says witchcraft in football should be banned and national and international soccer bodies should introduce a campaign just like in the case of doping and corruption.
“A public campaign should first be introduced and all national and international soccer governing bodies should go in the fore-front to end this witchcraft thing which is deterring the game. People need to see the authenticity of the game, not immoral practices,” he says.

Mobile: +255 715 070109; e-mail: mbega.daniel@gmail.com

 

SOURCE: The Citizen, Monday 12 March 2012

 

 

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Categories: All Stories
  1. May 6, 2013 at 11:11 am

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